It’s 3 p.m. on Friday. Journalists in newsrooms all over the country are
wrapping up a long week. They have just finished putting the final touches on
the weekend feature and returned calls to the mayor’s press secretary, the
paper’s resident conspiracy theorist and even their moms.
They just finished returning the last email and are looking to
make an early exit for the weekend when at the last minute they hear the most
dreadful noise – that all-too-familiar new-email “bing” from Outlook.
For a split second journalists try to pretend they didn’t hear it. Maybe it
came from another desk or hearing phantom noises is the side effect of their
12-cups-of-coffee-a-day diet. But in their guts they know what exactly that
The Friday Dump.
Whenever the government or a business is backed into a corner and
is forced to release less than flattery news, they have made the habit of
dumping the bad news late on Friday afternoon and thus ruining journalists’
weekends. This is especially true for long and holiday weekends.
The theory behind the Friday Dump? According to West Wing’s Josh Lyman, “Because no
one reads the paper on Saturday.” (How is that different from the other six
And dumping bad news late on Fridays gives journalists little to
no time to go through the accompanying stack of legal paperwork to actually
find the real dirt behind the bad news.
When journalists get hit with the Friday Dump, they must cancel
their Friday night plans, which is certain to upset Scrabble clubs, improv
comedy groups and other lame gatherings that journalists attend when they’re
Journalists know when elected official announces their resignation
on a Friday to spend more time with their family, there’s an ongoing ethics
violations, pending criminal charges or a scorned wife.
But the Friday Dump is good for journalists because it conditions
journalists what to expect from those in power. Also, it removes the guilt of
ditching the newsroom room at 3 p.m. on Friday because we all know the last
thing journalists need is another excuse for happy hour.